Court: Trump Administration Illegally Delayed 4 Efficiency Standards

$8 Billion in Utility Bill Savings Were at Risk

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge today ruled the Trump administration illegally stalled four energy efficiency standards that could save U.S. households and businesses at least $8 billion, agreeing with the Natural Resources Defense Council, other public interest groups, 11 states, and the City of New York that the year-long delay was unwarranted.

Following is a statement from Kit Kennedy, senior director of the Climate and Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“The decision sends an unmistakable message that the Trump administration can’t flout the law. These four commonsense national energy efficiency standards went through a rigorous and legally required rulemaking process, a procedure that dates back to President Reagan. The Trump administration’s baffling decision to block the final procedural step could have cost Americans $8 billion in higher energy bills and created uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers. Today’s ruling reaffirms that the Trump administration must follow the laws designed to ensure America’s consumers and businesses aren’t forced to pay needlessly higher energy bills.”

The case involved delayed U.S. Department of Energy standards for portable air conditioners, uninterruptible power supplies (the battery backup systems used to keep computers and other electronic devices running when the power goes out), air compressors used in a variety of commercial and industrial applications, and packaged boilers that heat one-fourth of the nation’s commercial space. Together, they could save U.S. consumers $8.4 billion and avoid a whopping 99 million metric tons of carbon pollution over the next 30 years – equal to powering 10.6 million U.S. homes annually.

The original lawsuit also included the efficiency standard for walk-in coolers and freezers, but it has since been published in the Federal Register, the final step required for it to go into effect.

The court ruling finds that the Department of Energy’s failure to publish the standards in the Federal Register – a final step needed to allow the standards to take effect -- was “a violation of the Department’s duties” under federal law. The court ordered the Trump administration to publish the long-delayed standards within 28 days. The ruling is here.

Background Information 

NRDC and Earthjustice–-representing the Sierra Club, the Consumer Federation of America, and Texas Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy–-sent a letter on April 3, 2017, threatening to sue the DOE if it did not release the energy efficiency standards by publishing them in the Federal Register within 60 days. When DOE did not do so, the groups filed suit on June 13, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. A separate lawsuit was filed by the attorney generals for California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the City of New York.

The efficiency standards were finalized and signed in December 2016 but not immediately published in the Federal Register as DOE rules require a 45-day “error correction” period to address any minor typographic or computational errors. That period ended in early 2017, but the signed rules have yet to be published to make them effective, despite specific legal requirements to do so, the groups argued. The only corrections requested were for the commercial boiler standard, but the groups argued DOE still had a legal duty to publish the standard, along with any necessary corrections.

The stalled energy efficiency standards

Portable Air Conditioners: Approximately 1 million portable air conditioners—standalone, moveable cooling units that are not permanently installed in walls and windows—are sold annually. This would be the first energy efficiency standard for these historically energy-guzzling appliances, reducing energy use by about 20 percent and saving customers an average of $125 over the life of the air conditioner.  

Uninterruptible Power Supplies: This is the first efficiency standard for these battery backup systems, which are used to keep equipment running when the power goes out and are found in equipment like computers and other electronic devices. There are about 40 million uninterruptible power supplies in use today, with about 8 million shipped annually. The standard will cut their electricity consumption by 15 percent and collectively save consumers and businesses up to $3 billion on their electricity bills over the next 30 years of sales.

Air Compressors: This is the first national standard for air compressors, which are found in commercial and industrial products like robots used for manufacturing, large paint sprayers, and the devices to inflate a car’s tires at a gas station. Businesses upgrading to new equipment will see a payback through reduced energy costs in 2.5 to 5 years, and new standards will generate up to $45 million in utility bill savings each year.  

Commercial Packaged Boilers: More than 25 percent of the nation’s commercial floor space is heated by packaged boilers and the new standard will save business customers between $200 and $36,000, depending on the type of boiler.

Senior energy policy advocate Lauren Urbanek will post a reaction blog here:

For background on other concerns about how the Trump administration is addressing energy efficiency standards, see this blog by Lauren :

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.



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